Tag Archives: Rwanda Park & Tourism (RDB)

It’s Happening Now at Ubworoherane Stadium

Today and tomorrow, February 16th and 17th, you’ll find Valerie and other AoC team members at Musanze District Joint Action Development Forum’s Open Day. It’s happening at Ubworoherane Stadium and you can find us under the tent with partners in the Commission of Tourism and Conservation. Valerie has on display what we do in conservation and health education as well as our community conservation initiatives, Save The Forests Briquette Initiative and Sports For Gorillas. So, if you are in the neighborhood, please stop by!
Valerie at JADF's Open Day.  Art of Conservation 2012Valerie at Art of Conservation’s display along with partners in conservation and tourism.

Help From Friends, Open Houses Part 2

Art of Conservation received important support from its friends and colleagues in the fields of conservation and education at the recently held end of the year Parents As Partners Open Houses. And to this we say, “Thank You!”

Odile, Administrative Assistant to Volcanoes National Park’s Chief Park Warden, spoke with the crowd of AoC graduates and their parents. She expressed that the children learned a lot from the AoC program and that parents can learn from their children! Hope, a fabulous park guide, also attended and encouraged children to stay in school and aspire to the many important jobs in gorilla conservation. School directors, principals, and teachers also reaffirmed their commitment to conservation and health education by their presence and valuable help.

Odile Nyiraguhirwa, Administrative Assistant to the Chief Park Warden at Volcanoes National Park.  AoC 2011Odile from Volcanoes National Park presses the crowd to follow conservation and health practices everyday.

Volcanoes National Park guide Hope speaks with parents and students at Rushubi.  AoC 2011Hope from Volcanoes National Park congratulates the new AoC graduates, but stresses to them to continue with their education and never give up.

The collection of photos below show more scenes from the open houses and AoC’s amazing friends and partners who make it possible for us to do what we do. You’ll find more great pictures on our Facebook Page!

Help from Friends.  Art of Conservation 2011.

Thank you teachers-in-training Providence, Jean-Bosco, Naome, and Theoneste.
Thank you school directors and principals Pierre Celestin, Floride, Leontine, and Leonard.
Thank you AoC Board members Mary and Donat.
Thank you briquette producer partner Cecile.

The Winners!

Having prizes on their minds, children dash to the finish line and then rest underneath trees at Rwanda’s Park and Tourism office. While recuperating from the 3K Gorilla Fun Run, they drink soft drinks as well as surround the journalist from Musanze Radio. They give wonderful interviews about what they are learning in AoC’s conservation and health education classes.

Gathering race results.  AoC 2011Valerie with Dr. Jean Bosco Noheri from the Gorilla Docs and the timekeepers gather race results under RDB’s bingalow.

A bit of confusion ensues with ways to time and record the race, but soon all is sorted out.

Top 10 boys and girls.  AoC 2011Ten boys and 10 girls with the fastest times receive prizes.

Spiral notebooks, pens, pencils, t-shirts, books, soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste are some of the prizes children receive.

Ildephonse, winner, speaks to kids.  AoC 2011Ildephonse from APCUR won 1st prize, 25,000FRW, out of the independently registered participants and uses the megaphone to speak with the children about the importance of sports. Innocent, Eric, Valerie, and Eusebe stand by.

Claudine, Emerence, Fidele, and Jean Marie Vianney, the other participants who paid an entry fee to participate, all won money as prizes.

After the race. AoC 2011Ahh, having fun on a Saturday in Rwanda.

The event was a lot of fun and fortunately there were no serious injuries. We keep thinking that one day this race will be a big event. Perhaps it’s time to start getting sponsors for next years race! Please let us know if you are interested in being part of our 3rd Annual 3K Gorilla Fun Run in 2012 and maybe expanding it to a 5K, a 10K, a mini-marathon, a full marathon.

Children are back on the bus….singing and laughing all the way home.

A parting picture for you below.
J.M.Vianney crosses the finish line.  AoC 2011Cool Jean Marie Vianney crosses the finish line.

Vy, my Malagasy Hero

Movin’ It on Holiday to Madagascar.

I’d like to share with you short videos of the people I work with here in Rwanda and people I meet along the way who are contributing to conservation.

Please bare with me – videos, editing, YouTube are all new to me!

We’ll start with words from an ecotour guide in Madagascar, Vy RAHARINOSY, as he shares a little about what he does, what is his favorite animal, and the art he likes the most in Madagascar and conclude the video with a taste of Malagasy culture. If you’ve been following Art for Gorillas, perhaps you are familiar with our approach to conservation – my team and I believe in promoting symbiotic relationships between people, animals, and nature. What so impressed me and my fellow travel companions about Vy during our tour of Madagascar is how he brought these aspects together for us and we left the island feeling we knew a lot more – not just about lemurs, but about the people, their culture, their needs, the environmental and economic challenges they face. Vy holds so much knowledge about the many national parks and reserves – each with its own unique ecosystems. And get this, he studied philosophy in India and sings Elvis and Nat King Cole beautifully and loves dogs.

Vy Raharinosy, my Malagasy Hero

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/qp4Vm7hv0SA" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Vy hires superb local forest guides who offer excellent details about the animals, reptiles, birds and trees. Above is ‘le petit frere’, the little brother, who along with his big brother, sister, and father is a guide in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park – a rainforest situated in the east of the island.

I stood entranced when this Indri indri began its calls to the other lemurs – I’ve never heard anything like it. Still in Andasibe-Mantadia National Park.

Mama Indri indri with her baby’s head poking out from the comfort and safety of her belly!

Above, a Diademed Sifaka in the same montane forest – about 4 hours by car from the capital, Antananarivo. Madagascar’s rainforests were once in a band extending from the north to the south. Now only fragments remain due to deforestation caused by the timber industry, slash-and-burn agriculture practices, and the production of charcoal for cooking.

Here, Vy’s favorite lemur, the bamboo lemur. Hiking through forests, I was comparing the plight of the mountain gorilla whose habitat is a chain of volcanoes extending through DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda to that of the lemur found only in Madagascar – both primate species are endangered. ORTPN, Rwanda’s park and tourism service and a partner of Art of Conservation is protecting the gorillas primarily through tourism, empowering park staff, and trying to set in motion sustainable income generation and good health for the communities surrounding the park.

Do those of you who have traveled to Rwanda think that ORTPN is perhaps a model for Madagascar? Can increased tourism help the Malagasy?

I booked my ecotour with Ged at Terra Incognita Ecotours. Ged brings clients to Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas and this is how I got to know him. Click here to visit Ged’s wonderful ecotour offerings.

More on Madagascar coming up.

PNV meets Kigali: Natural History Museum, part 2

One group coming in – one group going out. This is how it was with groups of Kigali school children on their field trips to Kandt House Natural History Museum.
Art from our last 3-month course from local communities surrounding Parc National des Volcans (PNV) is on display along with the museum’s permanent exhibits.

Green Hills Academy gave their visiting children a long list of questions:
1. Name of the museum…
2. Location of the museum…
3. Whose home is now the national history museum?
4. Mention any two parts of Rwanda that were explored by Richard Kandt.
5. How did he die?
6. What is a rock?
7. Name the examples of rocks on display…
8. Name five national parks found in Rwanda…
9. Name five main volcanos…
10. When did Nyamulagira volcano erupt?
11. Where do the volcanic bombs come from?
12. State the influence of volcanic mountains on man’s activities…
13. What is unusual about how river Mukungwa flows?
14. What type of vegetation is on display?
15. Name three of each of the following from Rwanda
a) Reptiles
b) Birds
c) Mammals
16. What skills are required to protect the environment?
17. What attitude is being developed in our society toward the environment?
18. What is your responsibility in trying to keep/conserve the environment?

After viewing Art of Conservation’s exhibit as well as the museum’s permanent collection, students ponder questions and draw gorillas on the patio of the Kandt House.

I always loved taking field trips while I was in school.

APACOPE Secondary School students with Eric concentrating on the interactive sheet.
Photo by Sophia Milosevic Bijleveld – 2008.

Three boys on the patio of the museum.
Photo by Sophia Milosevic Bijleveld – 2008.

Valerie, Eric, Fahad, and I wish to thank Sophia and the rest of the Kandt House Natural History Museum staff for the wonderful opportunity to exhibit art at the museum and the chance to interact with Kigali school children and their teachers. It was such a positive experience for us all.

For those of you coming to Kigali, the museum is open everyday 9:00 – 5:00 except 1 January, 7 April, 1 May, and 4 July. Art of Conservation’s temporary exhibit is up for the next few months. Hope you can visit!


Art Show: Part 1

It’s show time in the Northern Province of Rwanda for the children of Nyabigoma Primary School and the adults at Shingiro.

Arriving at the school early to hang the art, Valerie, Eric, Fahad and I are happy it isn’t raining – this traveling art show can easily get damaged from the rains common here in Kinigi.

Eraster and Eliab, two brothers from the Sunday class, quickly search for their art to show their mother.

Fahad describes the Protection / Destruction lesson with three mothers as he points to the resulting artwork.

Eric and a student’s father share comments about the FACIAL EXPRESSION exercise.

Valerie communicates with teachers and parents about the art.

While we were outside with students and families, Gabby from Clinics Rising, has been busy inside the classroom rigging up the laptop and projector to car batteries for the slideshow! Here, Gabby and Valerie are ready to push play.

Laughing and reflecting as we view all of the photographs taken from our three months together.

More scenes from the art show in the next post.

Jubilant Forest Elephants

Paint a forest elephant’s face showing a HAPPY expression. Have fun!

Tapping into our imaginations, we conclude our series of facial expression drawings with the FOREST ELEPHANT. Living next to the protected area of Parc National des Volcans, the Virunga Forest, many of the students have witnessed forest elephants disregard the wall surrounding the park and move to fields near their own houses.


Any of you drink Tusker Beer in Kenya? Watching the children paint these great pictures I was reminded of the Tusker T-shirt design.

Perhaps some of you are getting a sense of joy seeing this work of facial expressions. Let me know if you do. Feel free to send me your drawing of an animal’s expression. I can post it here.


Brilliant Golden Monkeys

Team AoC sends their condolences to the families and friends of the individuals killed and a speedy recovery to the people injured in Virunga National Park on 9 July 2008.


A previous lesson exposed our students to drawing an anatomically correct GOLDEN MONKEY, one of the endangered animals living in the nearby Virunga Forest.

Today, Valerie, Eric, Fahad, and I encourage free play as students draw a golden monkey’s face with what they imagine to be its happy expression.
Three golden monkeys by three artists.

Students have fun with color.

Forest Elephants next…


Express Yourself!

Thank you for the $200.00 donation, VIRGINIA!!! We can hardly wait for you and your students to come to Rwanda and work with AoC next spring! Thanks for everything you do!

Paula sent this comment to me after she saw the illustrations generated from our Where Do Gorillas Come From? exercise:
This is so beautiful. I wish you’d make a calendar with a selection of the best pictures – I’d buy one!

Theresa, Sherri S. and many more of you share similar interest in purchasing art made by our Art of Conservation students. I’m struggling with the logistics and perhaps you all can help me. The money raised would help generate funds for the project and thus allow Art of Conservation to continue reaching out to as many different communities located next to PNV. It is approximately $100.00 for one student to participate in our free three-month course. The blogs I am posting now represent the work of 150 students, equalling to approximate project costs of $15,000.00 per each three-month course. In a one-year period, AoC works directly and intimately with nearly 450 individuals.

If I design a set of notecards, a T-Shirt and calender with student’s art and also made available student’s original art that is in the dried banana leaf frame made by Alphonsinee, are you all interested in purchasing these things? Pricing, marketing, shipping, etc… needs to be sorted out. I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions.

Johnny Cash comes to class – well, at least through speakers connecting to my iPod. Joining him is Diana Ross, The Beatles, Burning Spear, Yo Yo Ma, Ladysmith Black Mombazo, Jimmy Cliff, Elton John, Beethoven and Yo La Tengo. I switch the music off and ask, “How do you feel?” Fine, good, happy are the responses from our class of 50 children.

Not that I want to ruin anyone’s day, but with our exercise today, LESSON IN ART CAPTURING FACIAL EXPRESSIONS, I want to explore a few more of our emotional states.

Mama Is Sad, a song by Justin Roberts, a native of Des Moines, Iowa where I grew up, conjures sadness. Luciano Pavarotti’s belting evokes curiosity. Giraffe from David S. Polansky’s Animal Alphabet Songs brings us back to happy. Ok, we’re acknowledging more human emotions. Good.

Now, I’m thinking, this song will really bring the house down with deep emotional expression – John Denver’s Calypso – his tribute to Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his oceanographic ship. Music is switched off…silence….then quietly someone says, “That’s terrible!” and with this the student’s laughter brings down the house. I laugh too, but come on, I love that song.

Clearly we are loosening up as kids rush to the front of the class and dance as Bob Marley wails on.

Settling back down in our seats, Eric, AoC’s lead art instructor, explains to the children the exercise:

Part 1. With a pencil, quickly draw a classmate’s face showing their HAPPY expression.
Continue with watercolors.

Part 2. With a pencil, draw a golden monkey or forest elephant’s face showing a HAPPY expression.
Continue with watercolors.

Below, photographs of kids getting started on Part 1 by looking at a classmate’s happy expression.
Classmates drawing each other’s HAPPY expression.

You lookin’ at me?

Again, looking at a classmate’s happy expression and quickly drawing to capture emotion on paper.

Their pictures from the day in the upcoming post.


Where Do Gorillas Come From?

“Where do gorillas come from?” a student asks our guest speaker, a guide from the park service, (ORTPN). We hear a bit of nervous laughter and no further discussions. I ask myself, “Why?” It isn’t an easy question to tackle, to be sure. Should Team AoC avoid addressing this wonderful question which we receive from nearly every group we work with?

Valerie, Eric, Fahad, and I agree to design a basic interactive lesson about Earth, life, and the great apes, but first we need an evolution timeline crash course of our own! We read and receive help from Dr. Magdalena,
MGVP’s Regional Field Veterinarian. We also agree we need to keep it simple – filling in the spaces of evolutionary development over time. Preparing the students for the following week’s class, we ask them to consider three questions:
1. When was Planet Earth formed?
2. When did life first appear on Earth?
3. Where do gorillas come from?

The approximate time of Planet Earth’s formation seems to be a good place to start. In a previous post, I introduced you to Alphonsine, a Rwandan artist living near Parc National des Volcans, who makes all kinds of things from dried banana leaves. Alphonsine giggled as she walked away with our command of a big round ball, and yet she produced just what we were looking for, Planet Earth.

In the field near the classroom, we take a walk through time, beginning approximately 4.6 billion years ago. Kids meander about Planet Earth.

Stepping forward just a few steps, we stop at the Prokaryote approximately 4 billion years ago, suggesting the simple cell represents first signs of life on Earth.

Now a really big leap on our timeline and we jump to find the ORANGUTAN evolving in Asia approximately 8 million years ago. Volunteers help by wearing papier mache masks made by Eric and Fahad.

Weeks of planning and preparation for the exercise were quickly coming to an end. Valerie and I got somewhat nervous and wanted to see how the masks looked and if they would be ready. We were thrilled when we saw the 5 great ape faces drying in the sun at Fahad’s house. Valerie inspected further by testing the chimpanzee mask. The chimp is my favorite.

Six million years ago GORILLAS were evolving.

HUMINOID, what will become modern human, and CHIMPANZEES split on our evolutionary timeline.

BONOBO’S, Valerie’s favorite of the great apes, branched from CHIMPANZEES approximately 2 million years ago. Above is a photograph of Eric and an adult student from Shingiro.

And here we are, MODERN HUMANS – not a final stopping point, but where we are presently.

After our walk on the timeline, we head into the classroom.
Coming up next, our student’s oil pastel drawings illustrating WHERE DO GORILLAS COME FROM?

My dog Ibyiza helps Eric paint signs.